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Hiring the Right Business Analyst

You’re looking to hire a good BA. You realize your team needs someone with the right skills. So you go out on a search.

You go to an IIBA chapter meeting and 30 people looking for a job say they are interested.

Eight recruiters hand you their card; three people have friends that are looking. Your HR policies require you to post the job internally and externally, so another 30 applicants send in resumes.

How do you create a short list? What do you look for in the candidates? What is your decision criteria for a good BA? Do you use techniques? Do you use certifications like CBAP, CCBA, or PBA?

On the flip side, you may be the person looking for a job. You see a role for a Sr. BA and get excited. After reading the fine print, you are less excited to see they are looking for someone with 3 years of experience. You believe a senior BA is someone with closer to 10 years of experience. There is no one definition of BA roles. Job descriptions and business analysis needs are different company to company, sometimes team to team in the same company.

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Just as job descriptions are different so are BAs. You can’t easily compare two people with the same titles. In the type of work we do there are so many variables in the scenarios BAs find themselves in. Those scenarios define their experience.

So finding people with the right experience or finding companies that can utilize your experience is hard work. It’s not as simple as finding a job posting with a specific title and know it is right for you. As a hiring manager, you can’t look at applicant’s former titles and know they have the right experience to meet your needs. So how do you navigate through these muddy waters?

My belief is just because someone has a certification does not mean they are a successful BA or can be a successful BA in every scenario. And just because someone knows a number of well-known techniques, does not equal a good BA. These just happen to be things that are searchable on resumes and LinkedIn. Therefore, they get used more often in job postings and resumes. The upside is you can reduce your search by finding people with “keywords.” The downside, which is bigger, means you drop off people from your search that may be more qualified.

An entrepreneur I knew looking to move into a BA role struggled to get interviews while people less qualified were getting interviews and job offers. All because keywords were missing from his resume and LinkedIn profile.

I just had a talk with someone looking to break into the BA field. When we started the conversation, he said no one was giving him a chance because he had no experience. After we had talked for 30 minutes, he had more BA experience than many people I know. On his resume it was not listed in terms most recruiters look for. In a class I was teaching, a student said he never used many of the techniques we were discussing like Use Cases. Getting to know him, he was an over-qualified senior BA. If he was going out in the market looking for a job he may have a harder time than anticipated.

Maybe you were on board with me regarding the certifications. But techniques? Techniques have to be a filter, right? My advice to you is to relax on the techniques. Seriously, how hard is to teach someone how to write a User Story? How hard is it to teach someone how to use symbols for a workflow diagram?

If it is not techniques, if it is not certifications, then what?

Well, let me clarify now that I got some of you fired up. It’s not that it’s not about certification or the techniques. It’s just your first decision filter should not be techniques and certifications. Once you find the right candidates for your short list, then maybe use techniques they know and have experience with and certifications as a data point to make your final decision.

What is your first decision filter look like then? It is the items that are less teachable. It’s the qualities I highlighted in my last post. Empathy, Yearning for Learning, Politely Challenge, and Networking. Hop over to my post The Four Chords of Great Business Analysts for a sense of what I mean.

The challenge is, these types of qualities are hard to express on a resume. They are less concrete skills. So, if you are hiring, how do you find the right people with these qualities? It’s easy really! If you are posting a position, you need to list these as things you value in the role. Many job postings don’t address these as critical qualities of candidates. They include must have experiences like:

  • Develop use cases and functional specifications
  • Develop and manage user acceptance criteria
  • Coordinate the process to analyze, evaluate, implement, and maintain systems developed internally and/or externally with an outside vendor
  • Gather, develop, coordinate, and maintain business requirements

If instead you frame the must have qualities as I listed above then you will attract the best. You need to flip your emphasis on what is required experience of the job.

And if you are looking for a job, look for postings that value these qualities. Project methodology and required tasks of your job will change over time. If the hiring company values the ability to politely challenge, for example, you will excel in the role regardless of what certifications the company values or what techniques are used in that organization.

I know some of you are doing this already. Keep it up, share your stories and successes with others!

All the best,